(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) advanced legislation in the State Senate on Wednesday to aid local ambulance services in Tennessee by implementing a quarterly coverage assessment, similar to the assessment that has prevented catastrophic cuts in hospitals in Tennessee.   Senate Bill 704 would place the assessment in a fund, allowing the state to receive additional federal dollars from Medicaid to be redistributed to the local private and public ambulance services for transporting patients covered by program.

Called the Ground Ambulance Service Provider Assessment Act, the bill is expected to generate approximately $19.6 million in additional federal funds.

“It’s a day-to-day struggle for many of our emergency medical service providers to stay afloat,” said Senator Yager “This bill provides a much-needed financial boost for our essential local emergency services.  Like the Hospital and Nursing Home Assessment Act, it would provide more funds to save the invaluable lives of Tennesseans across the state.”

The legislation has received support from the State Ambulance Service Association and was passed unanimously in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.  It now travels to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee before going to the Senate floor for a final vote.

In other action this week, Senator Yager gained approval of legislation creating a Middle College Scholarship Program to help students who are earning a Middle College degree.   Middle College is a public community college program that, in partnership with the Local Education Agency (LEA), permits high school students to earn both a high school diploma and an associate degree during their junior and senior years.  Although the program facilitates a seamless transition to post-secondary education, due to the requirement that recipients have a high school degree, the students are not eligible for the Tennessee Promise Scholarship.

Senate Bill 720 calls for a grant of $600 per semester, or $1,200 per year, to offset the cost of tuition and books during the two-year program.  The legislation also expands eligibility for the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship to students who complete Middle College.

“This is a program that encourages our best and brightest to get a jump start on their education and compliment the governor’s Drive to 55 to accelerate the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary degrees or certifications,” said Sen. Yager.  “The students in this program are not receiving any deferential treatment.  They are attending high school part time, fulfilling all the requirements, and taking regular college courses.  It is a very rigorous program.  Unfortunately these students do not qualify for the Tennessee Promise Scholarship which requires a high school degree.  So, these students have to pay for the program out of their own pockets with the cost factor discouraging many bright students from participating in this program.”

Middle College students are among the most sought-after students in the nation by four-year colleges and universities and typically achieve 100 percent proficiency on high school benchmark exams.  On average, 90 percent of Middle College graduates transfer to a four-year college or university.

The bill now goes to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee for consideration of its fiscal impact.